A diphtheria outbreak has been ongoing in Venezuela since July 2016. Since the beginning of the year – as of early April – 238 cases have been detected, including 22 related deaths. Health officials are intensifying epidemiological surveillance and a vaccination campaign in an effort to combat the outbreak.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria, which primarily infects the throat and upper airways and produces a toxin affecting other organs. The illness has an acute onset and the main characteristics are sore throat, low-grade fever, and swollen glands in the neck; the toxin may, in severe cases, cause myocarditis or peripheral neuropathy. The disease is spread through direct physical human contact or from breathing in the aerosolized secretions from coughs or sneezes of infected individuals.
Individuals considering travel to Venezuela are advised to confirm vaccinations are up to date and to keep abreast of the situation.